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May 18, 2020

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I hope this email finds you well.  

If you have the time today, I ask that you take the time to read this whole email.  

In this email:  

  1. A brief explanation of what’s going on today and this week.

  2. A challenge to choose grace to all of us.

  3. A devotional thought from Genesis 22

Today and this week

Two weeks ago, members of your pastoral staff met with other pastors and civic leaders in the area via Zoom to discuss future plans and what people were thinking of re-opening public worship service.

Last week your pastors met to discuss this and this morning this discussion was expanded to the Staff Leadership Team. 

This afternoon the discussion moves to the Executive Team and from there, any plan goes to the elders who will be the final say in matters of public worship.

As you can imagine, depending on the size of the group, there are as many opinions and perspectives as there are people.  

We ask for prayer from all of you.  Not prayer that God leads us to do what any of us wants, but prayer that God leads us in the direction He wants us to go, even if it does not align with what any individual wants.  

A challenge to choose grace

None of your pastors, executive team members, or elders has ever led through something like this before.  In fact, before March 13, 2020, no one currently living in the United States has ever had to lead a church through something like this before.  Please keep that in mind as we find the next steps.  Because it is almost certain that whatever is decided it will disappoint everyone in some way.  

We need to consider what the congregation wants, what our insurance company will insure, what our decisions communicate not only to our own but the community as a whole.  What can we do to mitigate contagion?  What are we actually responsible for and what is the responsibility of individuals?  How do we best minister to those who are most at risk and those who have less risk?  

In other words, safety seems to be the new predominate expectation but guaranteeing safety is not possible.  Therefore we covet your prayers and ask for you to extend grace to the leadership of this church who are treading deep waters, with a rip current and a gale-force wind.  

Devotional thought

Some would say, “God doesn’t test us.”  It even sounds biblical.  And it’s close…the scripture does tell us that God doesn’t tempt us, but tempting and testing are very different things.  Genesis 22 begins with this very simple and powerful sentence.  “Some time later God tested Abraham.”

Therefore, it is clear that at least, in this case, God tested someone…namely Abraham.  Theologians have debated exactly what God was seeking to accomplish when asking Abraham to sacrifice his son, Isaac.  And there is much that can be said, but I’ll sum it up like this:  Did Abraham love God’s promise more than he loved God?  Did Abraham love his son more than he loved God?  That is the conflict, the tension, the drama in this passage.  I encourage you to sit down today to read the whole chapter.  

Suffice it to say that God asked Abraham to do the unthinkable and only when God saw Abraham was willing, did God remove the command to do so.  God provided a substitute sacrifice for Isaac.  

Fast forward about 2000 years and God tested Himself.  He did the unthinkable.  He did not withhold His son, His only son but offered Him as a sacrifice in our stead.  This happened on the very same spot Abraham had bound his son, Isaac.

Why remind you of this story?  Because it may be that God is testing us like He tested Abraham.  By asking us to sacrifice our children?  Heavens no!  But maybe He is asking us what we love more.  (I’m going to switch to the first person here, so it’s personal to me.  I know it’s bad grammar, but it seems less accusatory and accusation is not my intent.)  ☺  Do I love my own wisdom more than His?  Do I love safety, science, risk aversion, politicians, statistics, even life more than I love Him?  Do I love my opinion more than I love His truth?  In other words, do I love myself more than I love Him? 

I’ve been in dozens of conversations in the last few weeks.  And I’ve observed something quite curious.  Thus far, I have not observed anyone who passionately argues for something they think is wrong.  We are all passionate for things we think are right.  But it is frustrating when we find that others are just as passionate on the other side and it is very challenging to respect the “other” when I am convinced “I” am correct.  And I assume the same is true for the “other,” it must be difficult for the “other” to respect me when I disagree with them.

Maybe God is testing us.  Can we learn to love the “other” as the “Other” (God) loves us?  Will we consider the needs of the “other” as the “Other” considers our needs over His own.  Will we be like Christ and utter the heartfelt prayer:  “Abba Father, everything is possible for you.  Take this cup from me.  Yet not what I will, but what you will.”

Who do I love?  Really.  

In His Grip,
Pastor Trent

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